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Highways England inspiring the next generation of engineers

August 2, 2019

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As a family, we are often out and about in the car with the children. Fueled by the love of a good adventure we can travel up to four hours in order to get to the next attraction on our family bucket list. Given that we travel quite a bit there is something that we can’t hide away from on our journey – roadworks!

Whilst most of us have a love/hate relationship when faced with roadworks. We can usually all agree that the works are needed but it can add a delay or two onto your journey, which can be frustrating. As we go through roadworks the children often read the signs by the side of the road highlighting what Highways England are building and the proposed completion date.

If driving through a particular set of roadworks frequently it can be good to see the progress made. However, before the groundworks completed there is a whole host of behind the scenes tasks that are completed. Many of which are years in the making before approval is given and construction can really get underway on a new section of road.

A close up of a map

Inspiring the next generation of engineers using Minecraft

Highways England have recently hosted a number of public consultation events showcasing the plans for the updates to the A428 between the Black Cat roundabout near St Neots on the A1 and the Caxton Gibbet roundabout on the A428 near Cambridge. During these events, they have collaborated with BlockBuilders to help inspire the next generation of engineers using the hugely popular computer game Minecraft.

The Highways England Minecraft workshops were aimed at those aged seven and above. Giving children the opportunity to see how real roads are designed and built, from the planning, designing and also looking at the skills and resources needed to build new roads.

A man using a laptop computer sitting on top of a table

Attending a BlockBuilders Workshop

Tigger was invited along to one of the workshops being held near Cambridge. As a fan of Minecraft, he was intrigued to see how roads were added to the game’s creative mode. Attending alongside Kaide and Eowyn from Big Family Organised Chaos the children were given a walk-through the plans for the new road within a special Minecraft server created for Highways England.

You can also experience the Minecraft world from home. To join the server, open Minecraft and click the Play button. Go to Servers tab and click Add Server. Then give the server a name of your choice in the Server Name field and in the Server Address field type: a428.blockbuilders.co.uk

How does this relate to real-life engineering roles?

The children were able to find out about the things that they need to consider when building new roads. Highlighting some of the real-life jobs that are needed by Highways England and their contractors These include:.

  • Environmental specialists to look at the area in for the proposed highway. Gathering soil samples, geological surveys and gathering information on the impact a new road would have on the local wildlife.
  • Project managers to plan, organise and implement surveys, data collection and tasks. As well as overseeing mini-projects which feed into the larger overall campaign.
  • Engineers and specialists in everything from civil and structural engineering to traffic, traffic technology and road safety engineering, through to cost engineering and more.
  • Information technology specialists ensuring that Highways England support systems are in place and running effectively, on every road right through to the new technology that underpins smart motorways
Design and Computer

After attending the Highways England Minecraft workshop Tigger was left feeling inspired by the different engineering roles available. Wowed that his love of Minecraft could transfer over into a number of different job roles within Highways England. Whether it is in the planning, developing or implementing stage of road building.

As a parent, it was great to see that Highways England was doing something to inspire children into the world of engineering. Highlighting that engineering comes in various forms and could be a possible future occupation. Often parents with young children don’t attend these public consultations events, which for this scheme have now closed. By adding these workshops Highways England is hoping they have encouraged more parents to come and view the proposals for this road scheme…. all while their children are learning from one of their favourite online games and a possible future in engineering.

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